This is – on its face – a pointless argument. People who grew up in an area who called it “soda” will continue to call it “soda” because that’s what was normal for them. Same with the people who grew up calling it “pop.” I don’t expect to legitimately change anyone’s mind with this – merely present an objective, thought-out case for one of those options. This has been one of those pedantic, pointless arguments for a long time – odds are that if you moved to an area far from where you grew up, you may have had a similar discussion with your co-workers: is “pop” or “soda” the correct way to refer to soft drinks? And odds are that everyone had a weirdly strong opinion on the matter.
Still, I’ve thought long and hard about this – and I’ve settled on “pop” being the better option. But when I explain myself to people, I’m typically met with this kind of resistance:
So it’s time to settle this matter once and for all.
It’s “pop.” Here’s why.
1. It’s shorter – both spoken AND written – and therefore more efficient
“Pop” is a shorter word than “soda.” Not by much, mind you – only one letter separates the two. However, it is much easier to say – one syllable versus two. And while there is not necessarily an inherent value in making things shorter and more abbreviated, in this case there is. “Pop” and “Soda” are both referring to the same thing, and no one would ever be confused when using either as a noun. The key differentiator is that “pop” is shorter – thus, slightly easier and more convenient to say.
Again, this is an objective analysis. There is no sound, objective argument for using MORE letters and using MORE syllables to describe the same thing. “Pop” makes more sense – it’s math!
2. It’s an onomatopoeia (which is way better than a chemical compound abbreviation)
Let’s back up a second and define the word “onomatopoeia” – it refers to “a word from a sound associated with what is named.” In other words, stuff like “woof” and “cuckoo” and….”pop.” That’s right – “pop” isn’t just any ordinary word, but a word that is a literal description of the sound that the key object creates. And soft drinks are largely defined by the fizz – or, hundreds of little bubbles making their way to the surface and…”popping.”
“Pop” actually means something evocative. To the primitive, instinctual parts of our brains – it makes sense. “Pop” is the sound a bubble makes when it explodes – and the thing that defines soft drinks is the carbonation, which leads to hundreds of bubbles popping (or the sound of a bottle or a can being opened). “Soda”, meanwhile, makes sense on a much less intuitive, more linguistic sense – as it’s a shorter way of saying “sodium bicarbonate,” aka the incredibly nerdy way to refer to carbonated soft drinks. Regardless, this is absolutely less evocative to the human mind – it requires a deeper knowledge of chemistry to make sense, and relies more on educational hierarchy than intrinsic human experiences.
3. It’s a palindrome
In addition to being more efficient and being a more natural word to the human mind, “pop” has the distinct advantage of being a palindrome. But why would a simple palindrome be better than a chemical abbreviation? …DO I REALLY HAVE TO ANSWER THAT?
Beyond the fact that a palindrome involves a certain level of simplicity (since the characters involved – by definition – must be limited, since the beginnings and endings are identical), it figures into something we haven’t discussed so far: elegance. Beauty in many regards is often defined by symmetry – it’s said that symmetrical faces are judged as more beautiful, and the same goes for words. “Pop” is the same forwards and backwards, and there’s a certain grace to that. It’s built into our brains to value symmetry – and “soda” has none of it.
4. We need to stand united against the psychos out there who call every soft drink “Coke”
At some point, we must come to a realization – this infighting between “soda” and “pop” is counterproductive. We’re describing the exact same thing, but being caught up in which synonym is more appropriate. It’s pointless, it’s redundant, and it’s totally pedantic. We’re saying the EXACT SAME THING, just disagreeing on which mildly different word is the better fit. But as we fight within our own ranks, we are weakening ourselves as our true enemy closes in: those psychos from the South who just call everything “Coke.”
“Coke” is a GODDAMN proper noun, referring to a SPECIFIC brand of cola. You can’t use “Coke” to refer to ALL soft drinks – you can’t use “Coke” to refer to ANYTHING except Coca-Cola! Calling EVERY KIND OF ONE THING by the name of that thing’s most popular product makes no sense – it’d be like calling all movies “Star Warses.” To say “Coke” when you want a Sprite or a Mountain Dew is legitimately insane – and everyone else needs to unite forces and squash this OBJECTIVELY WRONG rebellion within our ranks. But to do so, the forces of “Pop” and “Soda” need to reach some form of detente. And – to mount a meaningful defense – someone has to give in.
“Pop” is the superior choice. It’s easier to say, more fun to say, and a genuinely prettier word. It’s better, by every single sense imaginable (unless you’re a weird science dweeb who likes thinking of soft drinks as “sodium bicarbonate”).
So, please, start saying “pop.” I know it’s an incredibly midwest thing to say, but at least I’m not asking you to call water fountains “bubblers” or anything.